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Book Review: Digital Photography, Expert Techniques

by Harald Freise

O’Reilly has generally been known as a well-respected publisher of books focusing on programmers, their tools and operating systems. Most of their books featured an endangered species on the cover and the books were primarily aimed at the sophisticated user (wonder if there was a direct link). Imagine my surprise when told that they had a new division aptly named O’Reilly Digital Studio.

Digital Photography, Expert Techniques is intended as a resource book crammed full of professional tips & workflow strategies for using Photoshop and enhancing digital photography skills. Author Ken Milburn, is a photographer in his own right and, in this book, introduces professional and “prosumer” photographers to the workflow involved in digital photography.

This book keeps a tight focus on what a normal professional photographers needs to know on a regular basis. It is these practical applications that make this book so valuable. The illustrations are clear and precise so that you can actually see what was the “before” and what is the “after.” The analysis, illustration and description of the workflow leading to and optimizing the quality of digital images are excellent. By focusing directly on the photographers needs from camera to finished product, Milburn’s book is leaps and bounds above many of the existing Photoshop books out there.

Photoshop is not the easiest application to use. Photoshop CS has very powerful image processing tools; you just have to find out where to find them and how to use them. It's unusual to find good material that covers and gives practical examples of the workflow associated with enhancing the digital darkroom experience. The tools used and their effects are illustrated along with the reasons for their use is clearly illustrated. The why, when, where and how to use each of them is given in a clear step by step processes.

If there is one weak point to the book it is that the section on choosing among the latest digital SLR cameras. With the advancements and the number of new cameras introduced to the marketplace, it will quickly fall out of date and therefore become quickly inaccurate. The chapter on selling work on the Web may be of interest to those that wish to do that. He offers tricks of the trade with color images, his focus is on using Photoshop CS to optimize workflow and photo quality of the final print.

I like the balance between camera, computer and software chapters. This is not just another Photoshop book, though it does go into considerable depth using Photoshop as the prime digital photographer's tool.

Everyone, regardless of their level of proficiency should read the second chapter of the book.
The second chapter is titled “Be Prepared” and is a terrific primer for the things that all photographers should already know. Written clearly with a digital camera bias it has everything from a prepared checklist of the things to have and bring with you to protecting your memory cards. Tips like always returning your camera to “program mode” and knowing your camera’s shutter lag and write time are so critical for the digital photographer. We often forget the simple things, like emphasizing the centre of interest and focusing on the eyes that can often turn a snapshot into photograph.

This book is not about knowing how to use Photoshop but how to be a better photographer in the new digital camera age. It is all about bringing out the best picture in each and every image taken by the photographer.

Although the book is aimed squarely at the prosumer and professional there are enough tips and tricks to be a benefit to everyone that is serious about their photography. Yes, you need to have Photoshop to gain the maximum benefit from this book.

Bottom Line:

Digital Photography, Expert Techniques
Ken Milburn (Author)
Paperback - 400 pages
March 30, 2004
O'Reilly & Associates
ISBN: 0596005474
List price: $65.95 CAD

Originally published: November, 2004

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